The ethnic Uyghur minority in China will reportedly face harsh punishment if they do not hand over their prayer mats and copies of the Quran to the state.
Announced via the popular WeChat social network used in China, Chinese officials have asked Muslims to surrender all religious items or suffer the consequences, according to Dilxat Raxit of the World Uyghur Congress.
Kazakh and Kyrgyz Muslims were reportedly included in the order by the Chinese government.
The Uyghurs, an indigenous Muslim minority primarily living in the northwestern Xinjiang region of China, have a long history of discord with the authorities and the Han Chinese majority.
In 2009, ethnic riots erupted in Urumqi, the administrative capital of Xinjiang, killing almost 200.
The deaths of two Uyghurs in conflict with the Han Chinese at a factory in the southern part of the country was reportedly a trigger for the violence.
Xinjiang is officially an autonomous region in China, just as Tibet is in the south. The Chinese government has blamed Uyghur separatists for its continued repression of the region and has justified crackdowns on the minority’s freedoms as anti-terrorism.
Authorities in Xinjiang reportedly issued an order against religious items in January of this year.
They began confiscating all Qurans published more than five years ago as part of the “Three Illegals and One Item” campaign that bans activities, material and items that the authorities consider as tools of terrorism.
The Communist Party of China holds a “strike hard” stance against terrorism in Xinjiang. This position has led to police raids on Uyghur homes and strict control over the culture, practice and language of the Muslim population.